BOSTON -- Looking forward, and only looking forward -- because looking backward for a Cubs fan is staring into a 106-year abyss -- is it better to be a Red Sox fan or a Cubs fan?
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Red Sox beating the Cubs in the race to exorcise demons between the literary crowd's two favorite baseball subjects; a race the huffing and puffing Cubs are still running, with no ring in sight.
On Friday, two days after completing a three-game sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Cubs officially raised the inevitable white flag on another season. They traded their two best starting pitchers, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, to the Oakland A's for starter Dan Straily and two prospects who will help to keep Chicago zooming up the Baseball America rankings, if not the NL Central standings.
Theo Epstein, who oversaw Boston's 2004 curse-busting as a boy-wonder GM, is now in Year 3 of constructing a player-development machine as president of baseball operations for the Cubs.
Raised in Brookline, Epstein was GM for two World Series championships in Boston before dumping a fat-cat big-salaried mess for Ben Cherington to clean up into another title last year.
Epstein is still young (turns 41 in December), and doesn't appear to be in too great a hurry in Chicago. Cubs fans don't seem all that nasty. They wear their lowered expectations as a badge of honor within The Friendly Confines.
I haven't read it yet, but according to The New York Times review of George Will's book "A Nice Little Place On The North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred," the author suggests the waiting at Wrigley is as much fun as will be the championship, whenever in the name of Steve Bartman that will be. The Cubs last won the World Series in 1908.
Epstein, with Jed Hoyer as his GM, has two years remaining on a five-year, $18.5 million contract he signed with the Cubs to do as he did in Boston -- end all the whatever it is.
For now, it's the same old-same old for the Cubs, who are in last place in the National League Central, which is where they have finished the last two seasons. The Cubs have not finished above .500 since 2009.
But they sure are kicking butt on the prospect-hyped pages of Baseball America. So there is believed to be a great baseball future on Chicago's North Side.
Coming into this season, Baseball America ranked the Cubs' collection of prospects at No. 4 behind Pittsburgh, Boston and Minnesota's. (Three of Boston's top prospects -- Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts -- are already on the big-league scene, with minimal effect so far.)
Having acquired 20-year-old Double-A shortstop Addison Russell in the trade with the A's on Friday, the Cubs now own three of the top seven prospects in Baseball America's 2014 midseason rankings.
A large portion of Cub hopes hang on "mega prospect" third baseman Kris Bryant (BA's No. 2), whose hype equals Mookie-Betts-times-four, and who has a local connection. Bryant's dad Mike played at Acton-Boxboro High and UMass Lowell, and was drafted by the Red Sox in the ninth round as an outfielder in 1980.
Kris grew up in Las Vegas (to be 6-foot-5, 215 pounds) and was the second overall pick in the 2013 draft out of the University of San Diego. In 68 games in Double-A this season, the 22-year-old Bryant hit 22 homers with 58 RBI while batting .355. His first five hits after being promoted to Triple A were home runs. He began Saturday batting .365 with seven homers and 19 RBI in 17 games with the Iowa Cubs.
And Bryant wasn't even the Cubs' top prospect coming into this season. That would be 21-year-old shortstop Javier Baez, who last year hit 37 home runs between High-A and Double-A. The swaggering 21-year-old Baez (now No. 7 on BA's list) is hitting only .241 this season with Triple-A Iowa.
But really, what can possibly go wrong with this bright future for the Cubs? Bryant and Baez are now under the tutelage of Iowa player-coach Manny Ramirez.
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